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  • Writer's pictureFiona O'Hehir

Cautionary Tale: Clarifying The Role Of A Building Inspector

Updated: Jun 15, 2022

In O’Hehir v Vosti, the building inspector was found guilty of not fulfilling his obligations at the Building Practitioners Board Inquiry into his conduct.

I felt the penalty was not strong enough for the damage he caused me as the owner of the property.

I appealed the BPB’s decision at VCAT, and whilst the penalty was not increased, the bringing of the case caused the VCAT to clarify and define the role of a registered building Practitioner under the Building Act 1993.

Hunt and Hunt Lawyers provide an excellent analysis of VCAT’S findings (set out below). In particular, a summation of the inspector’s misconduct and the role of a building inspector is very different from that of a surveyor.

Professional Misconduct Clarified

VCAT held that the building inspector’s professional misconduct included the following:

Issuing oral instructions to the builder on-site to undertake remedial works to defects identified during the inspections, and not confirming these directions in writing; Failing to re-check the building work to ensure that his oral instructions had been complied with; » Failing to identify defects and departures from the original design drawings in his inspection report, so that these issues were brought to the attention of the building surveyor; » Unilaterally approving departures from the engineering design without notifying the building surveyor; » Failing to identify that elements of the building work were missing, notwithstanding that the drawings did not provide for these elements; and » Failing to inspect at the “completion of framework” inspection all works undertaken to date, including drainage, and not only the frame. Important findings regarding the role of building inspectors in reaching its conclusion that the building inspector engaged in professional misconduct.

VCAT noted the following about the role of a building inspector:

The role of an inspector is to require compliance with the building permit and to give directions, which must be confirmed in writing, to ensure compliance; » A building inspector should not allow building work to remain non-compliant; » A building inspector should draw non-compliant building work and design departures to the attention of the building surveyor by noting such issues in the inspection report; » It is not an element of the building inspector’s role to form an opinion as to whether it is permissible to depart from the original design; and » Section 34 of the Building Act, which relates to inspections of building work at mandatory notification stages, imposes a wide obligation on building inspectors to inspect all building work undertaken in respect of the building permit, not just an element of that work, such as the frame.

Hunt and Hunt conclude that the key message for building inspectors is that oral directions must be confirmed in writing and noted in the inspection report; building inspectors do not have the power to approve departures from the approved design, any such concerns must come to the attention of the relevant building surveyor, and Completion of framework inspections require the inspector to assess all works undertaken to date in respect of the building permit, not just the frame.

Now the scope and role of the building inspector have been clarified by the VCAT, consumers new to building projects will have an awareness to counter unscrupulous building practitioners who take advantage of owners.

I hope the information I am sharing will provide insight to consumers and ensure they get what they paid for.

O’Hehir v Building Practitioners Board (Review and Regulation) [2015 VCAT 113.



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About the Author:

Fiona paid $870,000 for her retirement property that last year was valued at half that being land value only.

Despite a valiant win at VCAT, Fiona's struggle for justice continues for her retirement home.

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